There were two profound and significant changes in 1981. First of all, the introduction of the "pointy" DC200 body shape. This extraordinarily popular shape would define Carvin of the 80's, and would still be in production 40 years later. Additionally, Carvin began offering Hawaiian koa wood on most models; their first foray into exotic woods. Although reasonably common today, this was way ahead of what most other manufacturers were doing in the early 80's. The body shape was previewed in 1980, as it was used on the newly-released doubleneck models, but the shape wouldn't be adopted on single neck guitars until 1981.

The DC200 Koa was one of Carvin's most revolutionary instruments, and would set the stage for much of what would come in the future. Many of the appointments were taken from the DC160, including stereo wiring, phase switching and coil splitters, as well as gold hardware and MOP block inlays. The koa wood is what really set this model apart from the rest, however, and what somewhat unusual for any 80s-era guitar. The scale length of the DC200 was 24.75", which was the same as a Les Paul. The catalog also showed two gorgeous photos of the DC200K, which is especially interesting considering the photo and editing technology of the time. The DC200K with block inlays and chrome hardware was $510.00. With dot inlays and chrome hardware, it was $460.00. Gold hardware could be added to either variant for $50.00. The HC11 hardshell case was an additional $60.00.

The new DC200 Stereo was also offered in Carvin's standard finishes, which at the time were either black or natural. The body was constructed of maple, and the standard fingerboard was ebony, like most other Carvin guitars and basses in 1981. Maple fingerboards and left-handed models were not offered. The DC200B, with black finish and dot inlays, was $440.00. The DC200C, with clear finish and dot inlays, was also $440.00. The DC200BI (black with block inlays) and DC200CI (clear with block inlays) were $490.00. The DC120 12-string was $490 in black or clear, with dot inlays. Gold hardware was available for $50.00.

The DC160 Stereo was still the flagship instrument, even though it was now sharing that title with the DC200 Koa. This model was made from either curly or birdseye maple, with ebony fingerboard, standard gold hardware, standard block inlays, and phase switching and coil splitters on M22 pickups with dual volume and dual tone controls. The DC160, in curly or birdseye maple, was $685.00, and the left-handed model was $715. The HC10 hardshell case was $60.00.

Carvin's singlecut Les Paul style models, the CM130 and CM140 continued to be strong sellers. Body construction, materials and electronics were the same, but the CM140 offered stereo wiring and block inlays (but no maple fingerboards). The base price of the CM130 was $395.00 (with an ebony fingerboard) and the base price of the CM140 was $485.00. The CM140 was available in a left-handed model; the CM130 was not. Gold plated hardware was offered on either.

The DC150 was 5 years old in 1981, but showed no signs of fading in popularity. Like the DC200, it was available in black or natural, with ebony or maple fingerboard. Stereo wiring and phase/coil switches were standard. The DC150CM (clear finish/maple fingerboard) was $415.00, and the DC150BE (black/ebony) or DC150CE (clear/ebony) were $435.00. A left-handed model was offered for $30.00 more, and gold hardware was offered for $50.00. The DC100 was a no-frills guitar, and was a great value at only $298.00 in black or clear finishes. This is one of the few modern Carvins to have a rosewood fingerboard, and it sported no-frills electronics (but still used the M22 pickups used in other models). This is the only year the DC100 with a rosewood fingerboard was produced; in 1982, ebony would be used.

Also new for 1981 was the SH225. Although it's somewhat common knowledge today, it was not widely known in 1981 that Hofner made the bodies and necks for these instruments, and Carvin finished and assembled them. This semi-hollow Venetian (rounded) cutaway archtop was constructed with a maple neck, and light curly maple top, back and side, with ebony fingerboard and body binding. The electronics were the same as other Carvin models, and could be had with or without stereo wiring, phase and coil switches. Interestingly, a black plastic pickguard was optional. The basic SH225 was $585, and the SH225 Stereo was $635. Gold hardware was an additional $50.00, and the HC18 form-fit hardshell case was $75.00.

Also available in 1981 was the DN612 and DN640 doublenecks, which were basically the same as the 1980 model, with the exception of the control layout on the top neck. Take a look at the knobs on the '80 model - the guitar and bass volume/tone controls were a mirror image of each other, whereas the '81 (and later) used the same layout. This was the design that would remain for these models until neck-thru design was introduced in 1988. The DN640, in black or clear finish, sold for $765. The DN612, also available in black or clear finish, was $795. Gold hardware was an additional $100, and the HC15 case was $75. Left-handed models or maple fingerboards were not available.


The 1981 catalog sported new photography for the LB50 - instead of just describing the 3 variants, all 3 models were shown in a single photograph. There were some changes to the LB50 from the previous year - it now sported dual volume and dual tone controls, versus the one master tone control of the '79 and '80 models (a great way of narrowing down the year of a particular instrument). To facilitate this additional control, the coil splitters and phase switch was moved to a position behind the volume and tone knobs (they were in front of the controls in previous years, like the DN640). As in 1980, the LB50 was available in black with an ebony fingerboard (LB50BE), clear maple with maple fingerboard (LB50CM) or clear maple finish with an ebony fingerboard (LB50CE). Any of these could be ordered with stereo wiring and/or gold hardware, and the LB50BE and LB50CE could be ordered left-handed. The LB50CM sold for a very reasonable $375, and the BE and CE models were $395. Left-handed models were an additional $30, and a fretless model could be ordered for $415. Stereo wiring was $20, and gold hardware was an additional $50. The HC14 case was $60.